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tv   After Words  CSPAN  February 17, 2014 12:00am-1:01am EST

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>> host: and thank you for being here. tell us about the district you represent is a minnesota man your role on capitol hill. >> guest: i district is the fifth congressional district of minnesota and a place that is very diverse. we have people from all over the world and as long as there was america but we also of two rivals from somalia, russia are, laos, and traditional population and from northern europe, as we did, but norway, plus the traditional african-american community
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but has always been there as a part of the great migration endorsed mont dash north from the soda. a place where innovation have bids every day and we have a strong tradition of tolerance. there has spent intolerance also but this is where hubert humphrey was the bare or you juried long dash 2g cars mccarthy stood -- eugene mccarthy where the base of support that really came from my district also vice president walter mondale who recently lost his beloved wife and we pray with them but also walter
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mondale but is a remarkable place. >> host: you are of co-chair of the progressive caucus? >> yes. also the minority whip where relies on also on the steering and policy committee and a proud member of the democratic caucus to serve with everybody else. >> host: you are a relatively new congressman why write this book now? >> after my colleague from the york decided he would use his prerogative as the chair of the homeland security committee i went to
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charity and to say i don't mind you talk about the radicals as we have to stand against radicals of any kind. but i ask you to not only focused there is a lot of people with threats of a homeland. people said no. i will how will but i will let you testify. i went back to certain friends and advisers why would you dignified by participating? others said get the alternative point of view. to talk about this kid he
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lost his life writing to the burton towers it do york and died as others were trying to protect their lives understandably so but yet this man gave field of the sacrifice but i got a little evil shall during my testimony and that got a lot of attention and then a friend dave karen hunter that i have a publisher would you like to publish your book at of your experiences after 11, first muslim in congress. i thought about that. my initial response is i am not so sure but they always thought intolerance inclusion it was worth
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retelling the story. >> host: starting with their ancestry what was your childhood like as one of seven? >> guest: i had to parents both had some other routes with other is an awesome cook and raised us with those southern role values and what we call in and teach torrey did is black bottom. and both of my parents are products of the great migration as members left the rural south into the urban north. i am a product of that.
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my father was a doctor who believed in education but also came up of the harder side of life do definitely learned fight for everything you get. life gives no excuses. also no mercy for the week if you cannot keep up there are consequences that if i called today he may tell me the same thing. in the affectionate person who also had fire in her belly. so with two different types of people one was to provide the other was all about her kids i'm still lucky to have both my kids with us who are in the tory right this second. >> host: talk about your brother.
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>> guest: my oldest brother is the doctor like my dad that doesn't turn of the viscid it takes care of people of detroit primary care doctor so he sees the first -- he is the people that the people seaperches. that my next older brother is bright and. he has a law degree and he does practice law but primarily he is a baptist minister. but he does see your lot as they practice but as part of the church of the baptist my other brother is a lawyer in boston and then my baby brother is a lawyer in winston salem north carolina
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it is active in democratic politics there my dream is one day he will join me in congress but we will see. >> host: end to your mother is a devout catholic tell us about the role religion played it your home and my father even call themselves christian he believes in the power of his own personal energy and grew up with skepticism how he would see people manipulate religion city was not for that but my mother goes to church on sunday tuned wednesday night and got active with the youth group even more after they left town.
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but she has her rosary beads and icons of very around the house they represent to polar opposites in my mother praise for my father and he offers private vatican price but i just came up big catholic schools this is just one new perception as a series of don'ts. i had a spiritual yearning but i was not religiously in boulder as a teenager even though it to the old boy raised catholic high schools
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what was searching when i got on campus i found the book on community to the rest is history. >> garett is an anecdote about your conversion to islam. >> guest: i read malcolm x as a teenager and was the fate of mohammad of these so in my mind muslims were people who would fight for justice but i did not know anything about it. so one day i was steady with a friend of mine and he ended the session to say i have got to go. he said i'm going to muslim prayer. and he invited me to go so i went.
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cassava shoes outside the people sitting on the floor but i also noticed folks were there who were white, black, it arab, black even latino. i like that then the free sure they were talking about how we're all from one season of bad of you deviate how humidity starts we're all united that way. i was intrigued i went back you playback unit converted to islam. >> host: after you finished college you leave minnesota you felt as though it was a place you could make a difference but could not do that id detroit. tell me applied. >> guest: uk and but i talk about the perception of the 21 year-old.
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not die of 50 years old from the perspective that i have now but from where i've was dead, all i needed a change of scenery. what i saw was the 21 year-old guy from every other day the auto plant was shut down political culture seemed white you have to be there a long time before you could get into the position and to serve. anybody cancer vetted the age but the leaders were blocked timeservers but when i got to the minnesota is a bit like the political culture was more open and. not so much, service but what you do so that is the
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way i perceived the difference. so i was active on campus that brave state you detroit -- a huge wave states i found myself the no leadership position the black law students association that i was president of and even has a of a young attorney it just felt more of the environment where there point people to purchase a pate wear in detroit there is no shortage of problems it is steve like the political environment where the people who were there had all the answers if you know, what i read. i'd love to try to minneapolis is my adopted home town now but i am grateful and i love to see
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detroit do well. >> you wrote in your book your faith was not an issue until your congressional brian. why is that the case? >> i had been in politics already all this said in the religion is an issue. i had the prayer leader come to the state legislature to offer the opening prayer as we do every day tuned i was casting for ramadan. the reason it got such interest is there is a specific role of foreign policy national security, "war and peace."
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where the role of the united states was addressing a tumultuous and firebrat had to do with the majority was muslim. oh the few years before that the plot to attack united states was hatched in afghanistan rewritten the middle of the war in iraq which i opposed by the way. those things made the congressional items. somebody said it is like the japanese person to run for congress just after pearl harbor you could imagine they would see the person but just a member of a group but i think that is why people got excited and afraid period even abusive at some point.
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>> host: manchin day the million man march the organizers were of the list verified you are very critical of both have a and the nation of islam. tell us why. >> because people who come out of prison or drugs who are benefited by tradition. i've got to be acknowledged that is a true fact we should not taken the credit away but i was really looking for greater direction in and involvement after the march. after the march if you had 2 million men on the of all you had many more better perhaps ready for action right after that. but will there was policy
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prescriptions that did carry them on, from that crude it was like nothing. i found it disappointing but nobody's perfect. i thought that plus of missed opportunity. i tend to believe we need to draw people into action. the you want to talk about action, that is like talking directly to the people to organize around the agenda. not let's preached in a room or talk about other worldly type of stuff.
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at the end of the day i have a clear bias to try to redress the things that are directly you negatively impacting people were by is to organize the with the opportunities in front of them i found no follow-up after calls were made but at the end of the day that march inspired me to run for office it inspired be to think about the pri could get that level of organization but we could do about foster care what we could do about unemployment the disparities of health to education to have a sense of possibility. i am grateful to the people who'd called it but i do
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take execution just was not there. >> so that lack of execution lead to the political awakening? >> i thought what will happen? would it was clear nothing would happen i thought what i will do is get even more active in my community. i will be a part of this political process to be a factor with a greater level of equal justice for every american. but it is what we're taught in the acheron that god created humidity -- humidity that we are from different tribes. i don't have any use for a
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philosophy that says one group is exalted above the other even if i am in the group that they say is favored. i don't subscribe to that thinking either. that is an issue but but at the end of the day with the action orientation that is why i am not on board with that kind of thing teethree --. >> host: in the book you bright i don't want to defend your support anything because i am puzzled you are often called to do that. >> that is true. you can you look at the coalition of my status as of muslim you can act like you tried to ignore it to save by individual is proud of this but if my colleagues
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need information about what is what is or how to deal with the muslim community i will increase that because it is about liberty and justice for all and i will help to use this moment in time to improve with this idea of the inclusion in did america. i have decided rather than flee from the situation will go towards it. which talk to my colleague and his hearing he offered to let me testify and i accepted that offer that is why i go to other members to discuss the issue of inclusion and instead of bigotry. i have taken it on. part of it is my
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personality. i tend to step into the breach for offering help whenever i occasion but let things to handle themselves. >> host: one of your colleagues in the minnesota delegation is michelle bachmann accuse you to have ties to the muslim brotherhood a terrorist organization and that has been made very public but at the same time you say when you see each other your very cordial. how do you reconcile that? >> guest: she is jealous. no one can deny that. we have serious disagreements reaching from democracy, and every economy , the proper role of religion in our country.
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we could not be bored different. we are day and night on these issues but it is not personal. but that's what it is. a lot of people who watch the fireworks that, of congress a and the polarization may be hindered the impression there's animosity between members of congress. there may or may not. i don't have any but the reality is they are substantive differences not personality. i don't have a problem shaking the hand of a colleague that i disagree with or talking to them or get along with them. i believe you should talk to people you have disagreements with and i am
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happy to do that. but those to watch congress should know it is not personal but just different values in believe systems. >> host: is in your book you dispute the perception that congress in the government is dysfunctional but you write it is. explain the difference. >> guest: democracy is a system that all voices have an opportunity to weigh in on the direction of the city or county or state or country. because of that, sometimes those points of view clash at the impasse position. that is why.
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but what is the alternative? i do see there are important reforms we need to get the money on of politics. redistricts be politicized so that it reflects the will of the people vs. who draws the line is. real reform needs to be happening but at the same time but i believe it should be like this. with the clash of ideas is this the road of freedom. sometimes this goes wrong right before the civil war congress was dysfunctional then also. now we are in another phase with extreme equality it is hard to prove and agenda.
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people want background checks for gun ownership but congress will not move. majority want to increase minimum-wage but congress will not move. cute juries want to extend unemployment benefits but congress will not move but america is polarized so congress is also but we have to work these problems out. are really don't need to say it is not having problems of operation which suggest defunct -- this functionality but moving forward. i am optimistic if you keep staying gauge to recharger average americans we will work ourselves out of the polarization. >> host: you travel extensively as a member of congress. these congressional trips are used as a fact-finding mission but of the places you have gone you have been
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seen as an ambassador to these folks in foreign lands can relate to. how does that feel when you go over it when you look for information but people are asking you how can america help us and what kids you personally do about that? >> guest: that is pressure. bright? but it is an honor to make friends for your country. i have embraced the rule so people who live outside the united states hear about the united states and see it on television but how much do they actually go? and some cases it is a lot but others it is just perceived. it your from a country where one person makes decisions it baby strange to hear
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something coming out of the congress you may think that is everyone but it doesn't it is not be interpreting what the west does. i was in egypt before the recent military takeover in and i was talking to some people. favor asking the why did you support mubarak in and morsi? i said we will support and:you put up. we cannot pick your head of state. . .
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>> we are having a difficulty with this choice and many people need to explain how the system is different and how you can criticize the government and you need to access your elected officials if you want things to happen. including how this capital is yours. we don't serve a king in this democratic system. so oftentimes we are talking
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about the basis of how to make the democratic system work for you. and i actually enjoy it. and you cannot this title to do things that many people in america can relate to. can you talk to us about that? >> guest: i remember when i was staying on a cold january day in 2009. when rocco palma was out there and this includes the oath of office that he was taking to be president. aretha franklin sang my country. and i remember being swept up in that moment. i remember saying we were thinking about everything to arrive at this particular moment. and i looked out on the mall and
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i looked at the capital. and i thought about what happened in 1963 which is one martin luther king gave his i have a dream speech and that includes the song my country. they were saying that someone like barack obama could be elected president. then i remember standing there in a cold moment thinking about a song that i had heard many years before and there is an alternative version two "my country tis of thee", the stronghold of slavery, they wrote a song criticizing the slave system.
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and it has attention. and there is a benefit to own their group and we do not dare let the people who operate on the basis of fear or scarcity and me and mine and us, we dare not do that and we have to always be pulling "my country tis of thee" in the direction with the sweet land of liberty.
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and this includes the struggle to make this a more perfect union. and we have this pass law which is part of the house of worship. but they are known to be associated as well. i don't believe in burqas and i don't agree with them. and they banned an article of religious association. in a country like turkey, the
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religious expression is there in tunisia and we are religiously lineup with these people and they were all right. you know? you're not necessarily welcome in this way. you have the complaint of not being able to have these rights. and this includes catholic or evangelical or whatever. you can be jewish, you can be orthodox or conservative or whatever. you can be a sunni or islamic. you don't have to practice any
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religion at all if you don't want to. this is a wonderful thing that we have to practice as you please but it is not guaranteed and we have to protect it. we have to defend it. and somehow you're right to practice your faith leads to other people practicing their spurrier so what if the political tables turned? so the only way to go forward. congress shall pass no law establishing a state religion nor a vigilance of free exercise thereof. and i believe it now. and so "my country tis of thee", it is the title of the book. and it's caused me to do a lot of soul-searching and reflection about our nation. >> host: you see any parallels with your experience in the president's experience and did
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you hearken back to your swearing-in when you are there for your inauguration? >> i thought about it. a lot of times it was interesting. they tried to discredit him and he is a person of the name the learned it could be associated with them, but he is a christian. i am a muslim and i am an english man. and so in some ways i do think a certain care law. and he goes under more than i am. and he is exercised grace under fire as well. american selected of rock obama.
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and of course we are not racial and we have income education it allows us to take this on itself. some will say can't happen and it's too strong and they said that about slavery and about jim crow. and that means that we could have brotherhood and sisterhood is martin luther king talked about. it was possible and i think that we can tear down these inequalities and i am optimistic about it. >> the subtitle of your book is a family and faith in future and in the book you talk about some of those disparities that you
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just mentioned and he made that your mission here on capitol hill as well. can you talk about some of these issues being addressed in the book that you are looking to tackle? >> i think the biggest problem is income inequality. it is two components. stagnant wages and rising debt loads. limited economic fortunes for working people. and it's limited economic rewards for those of the tip top of the economy. the stagnating situation for working people and of course people of color are disproportionately concentrated but they're not the only ones down there. so yes, the foreclosure crisis happened after the americans were hit harder but they weren't
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the only ones who are said. you know, african-americans were hit harder by help insurance. i have a lot of them tell me they need health care for him to from their policy and they had bankruptcy problems. so what i'm saying is that i believe that our president is right about income inequality being the defining issue. and i think that as a nation we have to him among people ordinary means all over this country and we close the political power to require that the wealth of the country be shared more equitably. and conservatives say that you have to cut taxes and not
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regulate the rich people a business because they will take the extra money that you give them by not regulating them in use that extra money to invest in equipment to hire the rest of us. but we now know trickle-down economics is a failed economics philosophy and it simply doesn't work. there is no historic precedent for working and the proof of how that works is all around us. i want work prosperity for working families and that means reducing the debt and make college as a portable enough to work your way through school again and that is something that i want to deal. that means consumer protection for people who pay high fees and stuff and that means making sure that the minimum wage is increased and we have the ability to improve things.
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that means rewarding things like conch pizza that actually raise is without any government intrusion. i want to keep the people on the job and i'm going to pay better as opposed to the low-wage model. and i will make sure that we have trade deal of that actually help the american working class and middle class and not just for offshore jobs. so we have seen ever increasing deficits. that's the we are running trade deficits and not on the up. and we are still going up but not in a trade surplus situation. and so we -- i think that we
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don't have a stagnating economy for working people by accident, but we have it because of a set of decision around taxation and trade and collective bargaining. education and training that has put this economy on the footing than it is on to make this economy work for everyone and includes small business and middle class people and professionals and certainly workers as well. >> tackling many of these issues, as you have become a champion of the left, is this a platform to higher aspirations or a higher office? >> no. i never said that i would run for a higher office, but i'm not saying that it is a platform. but it's an aspiration. i don't have any ambition higher
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than the one i hold because i don't see another one higher than what i've hold. i don't know if there's a better job in the world than what i hold right there and i mean that seriously. but i am ambitious for its policy agenda and not for personal reasons of elevation. but i am ambitious for our country where there is a reliable path to economic security for everyone. and also for the few people that are too old or too sick to work. it is a safety net that doesn't allow them to fall so that they are destitute and that is my ambition. and i think about legislative achievements and my work with congress. i am not proud of any title that i hold. and i'm proud of the fact that the progressive caucus and many
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other members of the democratic caucus demanded over a year ago that the president issued an executive order raising the pay of federal workers who worked for federal contractors. those that worked with federal contractors that were making low pay. and we got members of the house and senate to send a letter to the president demanding this increase through executive orders and we gave them letters him letters about it personally and asked the staff about it and other members that went all over this country with the low-wage workers at fast food restaurants. and if that's the last thing that the president announced for the issue of this executive order and that is when i am proud of. i am proud to be a part of stuff like that and i'm not really
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ambitious for titles but for achievement that will put the average working person whether from mexico or somalia or 10 generations in america, that they can look forward to a retirement if they are not looking at getting dull food or their child getting a good education and having a good and decent homes live in. to have decent water to drink and to look forward to this as well. so that is what my condition is. >> one of the themes that you have talked about his personal growth and you talk about your father and 15 or 16 year old keith ellison. you also asked did you ever see yourself at the point that you are now. >> you know, when i was that
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age, if somebody asked me what you want to be when you grow up, i honestly would have told them that i don't know. i knew one thing. i knew that i loved to read. and i knew that i loved to express myself. i knew that i hated to see people treated unfairly or holy or taken advantage of. and i thought okay, i want to be an economist. because i thought if you don't understand the way the world works, you have to understand the money. and so then i found out that economics is part of it and also politics. so then i did a little work in
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law school which brought me to minnesota and that is kind of my path. but i have no idea. and in fact when i got to my 20s,'s i thought it would be for electoral politics. because i didn't think that they have a lot to offer in terms of real change and i was proved wrong when i met paul russell combined the pragmatism of a politician in the heart of idealism of a community organizer and he pulled these two things together for sort of what i wanted to do. and so that is what it is. >> he spent a lot of time talking about your family and children and their experiences.
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>> yes. >> and how different america is. can you talk to us about that? >> 's yes, when i was growing up, america was much more racially obsessed. you know? and so when i was a kid if somebody dated outside of the african-american community, that would be the thing. for kids and my kids generation, it was not officially swear i lived. kids are far more accepting of each other is far more embracing of our culture and they are much more ready to accept people for who they are and who they offer themselves to be. my kids certainly embodied out and i think it is a wonderful development. the good thing about my kids is that they are still very proud of being african-american and
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they embrace it and they love to read about and i would hear about it. but at the same time they are interested in their own heritage as opposed to them makes them not want to understand others' heritage. it makes the opposite true. >> would you say that you adopted your mothers parenting style? >> not my father's style. because we didn't believe in him. but i think that i melted into a my mother, she was a person who stuck up for her kids and made sure that she was an active mom. my mom today is a social worker in detroit, michigan.
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she loves those kids and probably treats him like she treats us. and she is the person who would make you feel good just being around her. so the two of them was like a mixture of, you know, like tough love and affectionate love as well. and i tried to go into the middle of the two and i tried to be concerned about my kids and they're the best thing that i've ever done and been a part of your and they are my treasure. now they are getting older and the youngest one is in high school. and she's a senior going to college next year and then the oldest one got out of college and they played football in college and now he is looking at going to law school after having worked a few years in the minnesota state legislator and
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the other is an artist and then of course i have a son who is in the military and active-duty and he's 19 years old and were very proud of him. and so my kids are my treasure but none of my kids were raised exactly like i was. and anyone else knows that you don't shape your kids. they are who they are and all you can do is try to guide them. but fatherhood has been one of the great things of my life. parenting and mentoring a child has been wonderful.
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>> in the book you talk about your mother being fiercely protective of you and her brother. >> yes, she was. >> you have also been fiercely protective with your children during your last campaign and her republican opponent who brought in a situation with your family. can you talk to us about your reaction to what was said and how you dealt with that with the aftermath? >> a commie by surprise. when he was going after my family and it should've been certainly embarrassing situation. we talked about his fy and his
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ex-wife. he tried to say that i left this information out and then he started talking about the circumstances of my divorce settlement and i took offense to it because when we walked in the morning my daughter had a day off of. and i had an emotional reaction and didn't want her to be subject to the uglier side. but he couldn't know that they were false, but you didn't know what he was talking about. and i fell below my own personal nerds. and i called him a scumbag. and i own that and i was wrong for doing that. i said no matter what he says, that doesn't allow me to do that. and so i apologized to him and to the public for as well. and at the end of the day, you
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know it is just a lesson. as much as you want to protect your family and kids, you have to always remember that there is a certain standard that you have to maintain. and then you have to apologize. if you must. and that's what you're supposed to do. and the voice that i was dealing with was my dad. my mom would understand why i would be upset if my dad with their that was an act of weakness when you let your emotions get the better of you even if the guy was out of line. you stay in line. and that was my inner voice telling me that.
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and that was part of that episode. and you have to move on from those kinds of things and you have to do your best. you have to remember your values and you have to take responsibility for what you are doing that is were. you have to eventually forgive yourself as well because if you don't, you will just continue to beat up on herself and you will forget your job is to represent the people of the congressional district which means that you have to be flat out and highly energetic and doing that and i'm not there to let anyone make me shy or pulled his punches up because i'm embarrassed of something that i shouldn't have done which is right now quite the while ago. >> so what is next. life is still happening.
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>> yes. we have to get congress to raise the minimum wage. and it will issue the executive order to help people that work for federal contractors. and that is great. but it will only help about 250,000 people that will make a meaningful difference in their lives. but the minimum wage can help. and that would help millions of people. so that is the goal. we have to convince them that if we do it together and both sides get credit. and i would hope that they would go to the republicans and tell them if we raise the minimum
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wage that the folks that we said we'll have more money to buy the pizza. and you can raise the minimum wage and talk about the profitability. and i think that is the main goal. the other goal is that we have to be careful to not enter into these trade deals that just talk about offshore american jobs. and what else do we have to do? we have to talk about collective bargaining and continue to make the case that americans of all colors and faith are ultimately all american and that is what many have thought for and that is what we should maintain. and that is what is next. and that is the next thing that we are trying to do next. and, you know, it's not going to be easy and this book was not an
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easy project. i already started another one, talking about how this is a reliable pathway to economic security. and that book will go much more into the stories in the lives of the people i have met who were struggling to make sure that the american journey is good for their kids and the ladder of opportunity still has rooms on it. ..

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